S. Korea, U.S. wrap up summertime combined exercise amid tensions with N.K.

SEOUL-- South Korea and the United States on Thursday concluded a summertime combined exercise conducted amid heightened tensions after North Korea warned of a "serious security crisis" in protest of the regular drills.

The nine-day computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training began on Aug. 16 in a scaled-back manner, mobilizing the minimum level of troops without any outdoor drills, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

"South Korea and the U.S. ended the training after successfully achieving its goal despite the COVID-19 situation," a JCS official said.

This year's summertime exercise kicked off amid strong protests from North Korea, with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, blasting the drills as an "unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid."

Kim Yong-chol, a senior North Korean official, also said the North will make the South "realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice," raising concerns over a possible military provocation.

But no unusual activities have been detected from the North as of yet, according to the military.

Pyongyang has long railed against such exercises, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion, though Seoul and Washington have stressed that they are regular ones that are purely defensive in nature.

During the main exercise, the two sides were again unable to carry out a Full Operational Capability (FOC) test, further dimming prospects for Seoul's retaking of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from Washington at an early date.

An FOC test is a crucial step to check if South Korea is on course to meet conditions required for retaking the OPCON, which has no specific deadline.

It was supposed to be held last year as part of the allies' combined training, but the two countries failed to do so due to the COVID-19 situation.

Officials said some of the drills this year were conducted under FOC conditions "to maintain the progress on the conditions-based" OPCON transition.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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